Northridge Local Schools Superintendent Chris Briggs said he is excited about opportunities for the district's approximately 1,300 students as they return to class Wednesday, Aug. 21.
"At every school, we've made some positive changes," he said. "It's exciting."
Students and their families will enjoy the suspension of academic and student activity fees for the 2013-14 school year.
"I'm hoping to get more students involved in extracurricular activities by putting dollars back where they belong -- the students and families," Briggs said.
In addition, pay-to-participate fees for interscholastic athletics have been reduced to $200 per sport at the high school and $100 per sport at the middle school, with a family cap of $400 year.
"I was floored when I came here at the cost to participate per sport," said Briggs, who joined the district in January.
He said the purpose of the change is to increase the opportunity for more student involvement and to reduce the burden placed on parents.
To ensure the safety of students, transportation also has been restored for extracurricular and athletics events.
Because of staff and faculty reorganizations, transportation savings, retirements and improved financial oversight, Briggs said, the five-year financial forecast has improved significantly since June 2011. Consequently, the state removed the district from fiscal caution in June.
"That's huge for our district," Briggs said. "Hopefully, it shows the district we're being fiscally responsible. (Treasurer) Britt ( Lewis) has worked hard to save the district millions of dollars."
Briggs said the earliest the district would place a tax issue on the ballot is May 2014. He said the issue would be for a renewal.
"Our district has been in a tough spot the last few years," he said. "My goal is to move forward. Our kids deserve it. There was mistrust for different reasons. We're at a different place."
District-wide, Briggs said, Sabrina Valley has been hired as director of teaching and learning to enhance teacher performance and academic program development.
"Her position is critical," he said.
Two other positions with increased responsibilities are expected to foster greater student and teacher opportunities, with Heather Clark as curriculum coordinator and Jack Kruse as technology specialist.
Northridge Primary School
Jamie Johnson-Greiner is the new Northridge Primary School principal, replacing Chris Blados, who accepted a position at another district.
Northridge will have all-day, everyday kindergarten.
"We're also bringing a new preschool into the district to serve families," Briggs said.
The preschool will be run through the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio.
"Busing 3- and 4-year-olds an hour at a time was challenging for me," he said.
The preschool students previously were bused to Newark.
"The ESC network will benefit our preschool," Briggs said. "Eventually, it will help our third-grade reading guarantee."
The primary school also will have an on-site art teacher for the first time since 2011.
Northridge formerly offered a virtual art class that didn't connect with students, Briggs said.
"We're bringing in a full-time art teacher," he said. "You have to give different opportunities and options for students."
Northridge Intermediate School
Jason Brasno, a former Bexley City Schools employee, is the new assistant principal for grades 4-8.
"I think he will be a great administrator," Briggs said. "He's a Princeton graduate."
Brasno replaces Marisa Knopp, who accepted a special-education position in another district.
The intermediate school also will have an on-site art teacher for the first time since 2011.
Northridge Middle School
Sherry Birchem is the new principal at Northridge Middle School, replacing Robin Elliot, who will teach sixth-grade science at the middle school.
Briggs said the Chinese language program at the high school will branch down to eighth grade, and a new information technology class is being introduced.
"At the intermediate and middle schools, we'll develop more collaboration between the administration and staff," he said. "We haven't done a good job with that transition in the past. We're bringing our principals to be instructional leaders."
Northridge High School
The only returning district administrator is Amy Anderson, who's in her third year as high school principal.
High school students also will see the return of the vocational-agricultural program.
"Vo-Ag has changed a lot, having all kinds of technology," Briggs said. "We think we'll attract kids from neighboring districts. It will be taught by Mr. Kim Weiss from Ben Logan. He was recommended by the Ohio Department of Education. We hope kids will come."
A computer-information-systems course through C-TEC will involve Northridge, North Fork and Johnstown students.
"I would like to build a collaboration among districts," Briggs said. "We're close enough. I'm excited about doing that."
The high school also will offer more online classes for credit recovery and student enrichment, Briggs said.
He said facility improvements have been made over the summer, including a new roof on the high school and new lights and a sound system at Viking Stadium.
"It's a great day to be a Viking," Briggs said.
New staff members
The Northridge Local School District has 21 new staff members for the 2013-14 school year:
Northridge Primary School: Jamie Greiner-Johnson, principal; Amanda Webb, kindergarten; Kristen Space, first grade; Kelly Charles, third grade; and Kelly Webber, art (grades K-5)
Northridge Intermediate School: Jason Brasno, assistant principal (grades 4-8); Daniel Walsh and Nikki Goettel, fifth grade.
Northridge Middle School: Sherry Birchem, principal, and Kendra Athy, art (grades 6-8)
Northridge High School: Sarah Keane, math; Daniel Melvin, intervention specialist; Tian Yang, Chinese (grade 8 and high school); Kim Weiss, Vo-Ag; Erika Maxwell, school psychologist (K-12); Jason Vanasdale, C-TEC computer course; and Darby Riley, long-term substitute (wellness).
District-wide: Sabrina Vallery, director of teaching and learning; Heather Clark, curriculum coordinator; Jack Kruse, technology specialist; and Joe Rucker, girls varsity basketball coach.